5G and the future of mobile innovation

By Harry Gardiner

7th March 2018

Ten years ago, browsing the internet on your phone was a novelty, and the thought of streaming media online via mobile a distant dream.

Nowadays, there’s a chance you’re reading this on your mobile (nearly a quarter of our readers are).

So, what’s changed?

From WAP to 4G

In just over a decade, we’ve seen a huge surge of innovation within the mobile industry. The birth of the iPhone brought with it a wealth of advancements, including the rise of touchscreen, phablets, and internet-enabled phones and, with them, a boom in mobile connectivity.

We’ve certainly come a long way since the days of basic WAP internet, so far in fact that brands like Nokia and Vodafone are talking about putting 4G on the moon.

People all over the world are now able to share experiences with each other, engage with businesses and interact with services like never before. If you wanted to, you could video call someone from the base camp of Mount Everest, or stream Netflix from the International Space Station.

But with mobile innovation having come so far already, is it possible for us to progress even further in our lifetime? The answer is yes, thanks to two simple letters: 5G.

What is 5G?

The fifth generation of mobile wireless is the next step in mobile connectivity. Building on the fast internet currently provided by 4G LTE, it’s set to dramatically increase the speed at which data is exchanged between devices.

To put this in perspective, top speeds for mobile browsing currently max out at around one gigabit per second. 5G will reportedly increase download speeds to almost 10 gigabits per second—a noticeable rise that can’t come soon enough.

Recent figures predict that globally we’re using 7 exabytes of data per month on mobile alone, and this number is expected to rise seven-fold by 2021.

This is partly due to the use of streaming services and video apps, which have grown exponentially. During the last quarter of 2017, mobile accounted for 58 per cent of all online video views. In the US alone, people spent almost 7.5 billion minutes watching Netflix on their phones.

Of course, services like that require a strong, high-speed connection. And when our current 4G connections can no longer cope with our high-bandwidth needs? That’s where 5G comes in.

5G is expected to launch worldwide in 2020, with enabled devices being delivered by next year.

What does 5G mean for brands?

Brands are notably excited.

The new mobile wireless holds an incredible amount of potential for businesses and services alike. Not only does it permit new, smoother IoT experiences, it enables immense connectivity, accelerating innovation and opening the door for smart cities, ultra-long battery life, and super-responsive devices.

Brands like Intel are already looking into how 5G could benefit the healthcare industry. Speaking at the 2018 Mobile World Congress in February, Intel’s VP & GM of Next Generation and Standards, Asha Keddy, explained how the increased speeds will improve medical devices:

“5G means capacity for more devices which is great for monitoring. It also means low latency—which enables remote surgery, and it enables more healthcare data to be generated, captured, moved, processed and acted upon than ever before.”

Super-fast 5G networks will also have positive ramifications in the office. From using connected development software to bulk file-transfers, data-intensive applications will run far more smoothly. Your employees won’t have to worry about connectivity issues when sharing content or live-streaming conferences.

Imagine being able to use the cloud to seamlessly create, review, and upload high-resolution video content to be used in your marketing campaigns, all the while working remotely off a 5G network.

This increased connectivity is going to have such an impact on businesses, that financial services company IHS Markit predicts that by 2035, 5G will support nearly 22 million jobs, and generate over £8.9 trillion in global economic output.

In other words, 5G isn’t just a fast network upgrade, it’s the future.